New Beginnings Association for the Prevention of Family Violence (APFV) is applying for a conditional use permit for a shelter at 20 N. Church St. – the single story building above – in downtown Elkhorn. As a result of concerns and questions with safety and location brought up at a plan commission meeting in November, New Beginnings is working on addressing those concerns and hopes to return to the plan commission in April. (Heather Ruenz photo)

But there are concerns about potential location in Elkhorn

By Cathy Kozlowicz


While the community appears to be divided on where a domestic shelter may end up in Elkhorn, people are united about the importance of such a facility.

“It is the location that is the problem,” said Elkhorn resident Julie Taylor, who owns properties that would be adjacent to the shelter. “It is a residential area.”

The new shelter is proposed at 20 N. Church St., in downtown Elkhorn across from the Walworth County Government Center and Elkhorn Police Department and within walking distance from the library, coffee shops, consignment stores, schools and restaurants.

New Beginnings Association for the Prevention of Family Violence (APFV) hopes to return to Elkhorn’s plan commission meeting in April, for a Conditional Use Permit (CUP) application to allow a shelter, according to executive director Heidi Lloyd. This building was owned, operated and used by Aurora Lakeland and would be donated to New Beginnings, contingent upon the permit being approved.

The proposed shelter would have five suites, and be able to house 12-20 women and children for approximately five days to two weeks, Lloyd told the plan commission in November.

At that meeting, there was a public hearing in which plan commission members said they wanted to see more information from New Beginnings APFV such as statistics regarding shelter locations and threats to violence against victims with similar locations.

Lloyd said they are working on addressing the concerns and answering people’s questions.

A petition to reject the CUP had been circulated and presented containing 62 signatures. The Elkhorn Independent obtained a copy of the petition through an open records request and more than 90 percent of the signers live within close proximity of the proposed shelter in Elkhorn, including nine property owners who live on Church Street.

The wording on the petition stated the signers supported the overall mission of New Beginnings APFV but that the use for emergency, short-term housing would pose a safety and hazard risk to the residents of the neighborhood and would “significantly impair the values of nearby residential properties and would generally be harmful and adverse to, and wholly inconsistent with, the existing, single family residential character of the neighborhood.”

At a Feb. 20 county meeting, the Health and Human Services Board recommended the county board approve a resolution endorsing the mission of New Beginnings APFV, Walworth County Administrator David Bretl said.

“The proposed resolution does not take a position on the appropriateness of the zoning. We have not drafted a resolution at this point,” Bretl wrote in a Feb. 28 email response.

Read more about this issue in an extensive feature story in area Southern Lakes Newspapers’ publications.



  1. Laura says:

    Aren’t domestic violence shelter addresses supposed to be kept private? Why you you reveal the address of the place someone is going to when leaving a violent situation?when I volunteered at one to redo the playroom we had to sign a waiver to not reveal the address to anyone.

  2. Bill says:

    Thank you. 20 N. Church St., in downtown Elkhorn across from the Walworth County Government Center, got it.

    Announcing this address has just placed potential “sheltered victims” in jeopardy. Great Job!

    • Heather Ruenz says:

      We reached out to Heidi Lloyd, executive director of New Beginnings/APFV and this was her response:
      “Twenty years ago many shelters were at undisclosed locations. Over the past 10 years, that has changed significantly. Having a location that is public has proven beneficial in many ways. There’s no longer a sense of isolation or shame for the victims. The family is simply utilizing a community resource. There is a shared support system and sense of responsibility in helping these families heal. People know it’s a place where people should be safe, so they are more apt to report any suspicious activity promptly. Finally – and probably most important – is that abusers flourish in secrecy. They don’t want the world to see how they treat their partners, children, etc. They are less likely to come to a shelter that is public. In addition to the security system and cameras, there are community eyes that provide a wrap-around protection.”

  3. Daniel Alder says:

    This is in response to Heidi Lloyd’s comments as ex. director of New Beginnings Shelter for abused women and sex trafficking victims.

    In opposition to this location 45 shelters in Wisconsin with similar logistics and population were contacted by phone and email. Two of the 45 shared their location, 43 were hidden, none were in single family neighborhoods, some in multi-family. All gave the same reason, the safety and security concerns.

    When I questioned Heidi about this at a meeting at the library she said “this is a new trend.” When most of the homes near this location are against it how is that going to affect your “shared support system?” And “simply utilizing a community resource?” You said to me that you would be serving Jefferson and Walworth counties, with plans for five rooms. When we listened to the manager of the Dane County shelter she stated that they “had 58 rooms and should have built 100.”

    How do you notice suspicious activity when you are across the street from a public county park and any stalker sitting in the park watching the shelter doesn’t look out of place? How do you notice a suspicious person when you have a shared driveway with a new Victorian Bed and Breakfast? No greenspace for families, insufficient parking, a firetruck is not able to enter, $25,000 tax base loss to the City of Elkhorn, no plans for housing pets of residents, no garage space to hide vehicles (I guess you won’t have to worry about that because you will have a sign in front so why hide vehicles) and will be required to have an 8′ solid security wall around the property.

    Please look at available areas near the County Complex on Highway NN, learn to walk before you start to run. Forget about the glow of a free building and look at the safety of your residents, staff and neighbors on North Church Street.

  4. Jim says:

    New Beginnings is in the business of settling disputes and ending conflicts. I find it interesting that they have picked a location for their shelter that they knew would be controversial and cause the citizens of Elkhorn to choose sides.

    Health & Human Services and the Tree House (Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin) are both at the Walworth County campus along with the hospital, but for some reason this location is not suitable for New Beginnings. They claim it is because they want to reintroduce the victims to the community however they also state that the victims will only be there 2 days to 2 weeks. They call it a shelter for a reason, the women want to be sheltered from the abuser and not take the chance of meeting them in public.

    We all know a shelter is needed, but this location is not large enough nor appropriate.

  5. Jim says:

    I think it is wonderful that the Rotary Clubs in the area are supporting the mission of New Beginnings and their desire for a shelter. But I don’t think a lot of members realize the LOCATION at 20 N Church St in Elkhorn is inappropriate – the downtown area residential historic district – and does not meet the Rotary 4 Way Test and Ethical Guide.

    1. Is it the truth? – Hard to tell, too much erroneous information.
    2. Is it fair to ALL concerned? – No, not to the citizens of Elkhorn.
    3. Will it build goodwill and better friendships? – No, Making the citizens of Elkhorn choose a side does not promote goodwill. It has already caused great friction between friends.
    4. Will it be beneficial to ALL concerned? – This is definite NO. Not to the residents who live in the surrounding private homes or to the retailers both of whom are concerned about safety and their respective properties and businesses.

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